After a tough delivery from Plymouth involving every sea state and wind condition possible apart from anything using a spinnaker, including 30 knots upwind, I arrived soaking wet, cold and ready for a sleep. It was however great preparation to get me back into solo sailing as well as testing my navigation with some rock hopping through the Chanel du Four. Once I had arrived in Douarnenez, I had three days to dry out, rest and prepare the boat for the Trophee Marie Agnes-Peron (MAP)
This year brought some great sailing conditions for MAP, the majority downwind in 10-12 knots with sunshine for two days. With 76 boats on the start line, the biggest fleet so far this year, it was set to be a competitive and tactically challenging race.
With so many boats on the start line my objective was to get a clean start and to be in the position to tack as soon as possible for clean air. The wind was very light as we made our way out of the bay towards the Raz de Sein and I had to work hard to keep the boat going through the light patches of wind. Once through the Raz de Sein, we hoisted our spinnakers and made our way down the coast. I cut in close to the mark and hoisted quickly to take advantage of the wind conditions. I worked hard on this leg taking advantage of the wind conditions and to slowly work my way up the fleet. After the first gybe I knew I was in a good position and worked hard to push out in front. I led the series fleet into the Glenans (our next mark), although at the time I did not know my exact position, I just knew there were a lot of boats behind.
Once around Les Glenans, I had to change the large spinnaker down to my smaller once, a difficult job to do fast and alone in the dark. There was a bit of weaving about before I finally got my pilot too corporate and got the sail changed. I felt a bit rusty, and one or two boats managed to squeeze past me here. I arrived at Ile de Groix in the middle of the night and while I had my head down preparing for another sail change, I managed to catch a lobster pot, unfortunately not lobsters though, just ten minutes of hard work trying to free myself while everyone was catching up. Once I was free and got my spinnaker back up, and started chasing down the other boats.
I rounded our turning mark 4th place with 100 miles to go to the finish. I worked hard to keep the boat moving sailing with my big spinnaker as close to the wind as I could, I was glued to the helm: no breakfast for me as the auto helm could not manage to steer the boat without going off course at this angle in the gusty conditions. The fog built in the morning and we were sailing fast downwind dodging fishing boats. This was at bit scary as they appeared out of the mist only 200 metres ahead. I managed to get back in to the lead just as we worked our way up to the last mark before we turned into the bay and headed back to Dourarnenez. However a few miles before the buoy the wind died and shifted to the east and I found my self on the wrong side of the shift. I was a quarter of a mile to the right of the pack and as they reached in to the buoy I had to sail upwind. I was very frustrated with myself for making such a bad tactical decision. After the mark, we had 30 miles to sail home to Dournenez overnight in very light winds. The light winds made it difficult and by this stage I was very tired as I had only around two hours sleep since we left. It was tough to keep pushing hard for the finish. I finally finished at 7am on Saturday morning in 12th place out of 49 series boats. This was a great result for my first solo race of the year and it was really exciting to be at the front for most of the race, sailing with the best sailors in the series class.